John Vidal: Bonn climate summit diary

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Bonn climate summit diary

Cross-Posted from The Guardian-UK

Agricultural accounting, Saudi subterfuge and feeling your age

Bonn Diary : A Kenyan plants a tree seedling at Kazi Kwa Vijana forest

A Kenyan plants a tree seedling in Ruiru town, Nairobi. The Biocarbon Fund project is Africa’s first ‘soil carbon’ project. Photograph: Dai Kurokawa/EPA

Biocarbon Fund figures don’t add up

The World Bank’s flagship Biocarbon Fund project is billed as a triple win for more food production, cash for the poor and climate resilience. Really? The reality is that Africa’s first “soil carbon” project – which will involve 60,000 Kenyan farmers planting trees, manuring the land, and farming in “sustainable” ways to save around 600,000 tonnes of carbon over 20 years – also exhibits the sheer madness of the carbon markets.

The excellent US-based Institute for Agriculture Trade Policy (IATP) has now analysed the fine print and found (PDF) that the project expects to earn $2.5m from the carbon markets. But to set it up, to employ advisers and consultants and to monitor it will cost $1.05m. The 60,000 farmers will then share the remaining $1.4m. This sounds good, but works out at a lowly $23.83 each over the 20 years, or just a little more that $1 per year. Moreover, they will only earn this if they change the way they farm and record precisely what they plant, burn and put on the land. Given that the poverty line in Kenya is around $1 a day, the chance for Africans to earn a tiny amount a year – while Swedish and other advisers earn massive amounts – is likely to end in tears.

Shefali Sharma, the IATP researcher who uncovered the figures, is succinct:

“Why pay over 40% of the total project cost towards development of carbon offset when it could go directly towards climate adaptation and food security?”

Wooden spoon for the Saudis

The country which has done most to delay the talks and prevent a resolution in the last two weeks has been named by the NGOs here as Saudi Arabia. The kingdom frequently earns itself “fossil of the day” awards, but this time excelled itself by arguing that countries did not need to agree on activities for another 18 months and then blocking any moves by countries to let the public see what actually goes on in meetings. Tying in second place were Japan and Canada. The latter somehow neglected to include its tar sands in its national inventory emissions report and also refused to accept a legally binding target under a second phase of Kyoto. Japan, to everyone’s surprise after the Fukushima accident, argued that nuclear power should be allowed to earn carbon credits.

Young at heart

Whoops. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said clearly in its daily programme yesterday that youth groups (Youngos) and environment groups (Engos) were not open to the public or the press. But they were wrong, I am assured, and Friends of the Earth International, Via Campesina and many others insist that they welcome participation in their meetings. The youth groups were furious: “You can come on the condition you feel young at heart,” said one. After 14 days in Bonn, interminable hot air, and the snail pace of the negotiations, there can’t be many here feeling much beyond weariness and resignation.

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